YOUR LOGO DOESN’T MATTER

Often, after I give a speech, a new service business owner will hand me a piece of paper, on which eight or so almost identical versions of the same logo are displayed, and ask me which I think is best.

Maybe one logo might be more curvy than another. Maybe one uses a slightly different font. Or, maybe one is a lighter shade of blue than the others.

If they’re good enough I say with a smile, “Close your eyes, point at the paper, pick one, and get on with getting clients.”

Their response is usually about how they’ve been working on them for months and have been paying a designer a lot of money and that they want it to be perfect.

Of course they do. They want to be original, unique, distinct, and professional and they want their logo to represent those qualities.

But, when you’re a service professional like an attorney, financial planner, chiropractor, consultant, or coach, your logo doesn’t mean all that much. (Designers, please don’t hate me yet. Your faith will be restored in a minute.)

Can you tell me what my logo looks like?

Think… think harder…

You can’t. That’s because I don’t have one.

I have very specific style guides for all my products, books, etc. I LOVE design. I think it matters big time (Designers, you matter, big time!). But design and logos aren’t necessarily the same thing. Here’s a new look I created for my Alliance Mentoring Program. Simple, clean, stylish, and professional (at least, in my opinion) sans fancy logo. Sure, there’s a little thing in the upper left hand corner but it just has my initials on it. It’s good enough.

When you’re a service business owner, people are buying you and the results you can deliver.

If you can design a logo that is truly remarkable and gets people talking about you, then by all means, do so. But, if you’d rather spend your time selling your services, don’t waste your time on logos. I’d rather see you create a video that is remarkable or a teleclass that gets people talking or an always have something to invite people to event that is the hottest thing in town.

On the other hand, if you’re building a business that you plan on franchising or if you’re trying to start the next big clothing brand, music label, computer company, or charitable organization, then it might be a different story. Your logo might does really matter.

You decide how to best use your time, however.

Successful entrepreneurs are generally very good at allocating resources to get the best return on investment. Time is one of the most valuable resources you have. What’s the best use of it? Doing logos or doing marketing?

Update #1: Please remember to consider the context of my comments about logos and to whom I’m speaking — THOSE WHO ARE STALLING. It seems that some of those that are pushing back think I don’t think design/branding matters. As I said, IT MATTERS BIG TIME.

Update #2: Take, for example, a few of my successful colleagues:

Brain Clark is Copyblogger
Scott Stratten is Unmarketing
Les Mckeown is Predicable Success
Pam Slim is Escape From Cubicle Nation
Michael Gerber is The E-Myth

Notice how they have all done a great job of branding an idea along with their name.

However, I can’t, for the life of me, picture a logo that accompanies the idea. In this case, it’s the name that matters and the person behind it.

Update #3: The Sharing icons below will let you share the post but they stopped counting the shares for some reason (in case you were wondering).

55 thoughts on “YOUR LOGO DOESN’T MATTER

Catherine Morgan

I think you need to consider who your audience is, Michael. My folks are out of a big brand organizations like Deloitte or Thomson Reuters. It was critical that I had a logo and “look and feel” that made them feel comfortable and that I understood them.

My logo has definitely gotten me leads and more importantly, has helped me close business. On the other hand, I don’t think you need to go nuts with design or spend a fortune. But you do need to be professional and consistent. Wasn’t it you who said, “Consistency builds credibility”? Visual branding has to be part of the consistency in how you show up in the world.

Michael Port

Yes, Catherine, I’m with you. If one moves you toward success quickly, great. Rarely do I see that.

Marianne Cantwell

Catherine I agree with the idea of making big brands comfortable but I can’t help noticing you used the example of Deloitte… have you seen their ‘logo’? As in, simple white font on their blue header with a green full stop? I have no doubt they spent 10s of thousands on this ‘design concept’ but it’s something that any newbie could create by themselves in pixlr or similar.

So many big brands have rubbish logos but it hasn’t stopped them getting big. I think Michael is speaking to newbies who are stalling – in that case I’d second his point and say that spending more than 2 hours thinking about your logo, when you haven’t actually got your first 3 clients yet, is a popular delaying tactic. As someone who has built up six figure businesses without a logo, I encourage any newbies to look at Deloitte’s logo and think “these guys build one of the world’s biggest consultancies on THAT? Maybe it’s ok for me to just get started!”

marc

I agree 100%. What’s important is to book yourself first. The logo can wait. i must admit though, it’s fun to create a logo….. and fun when someone comments on it positively. BUT, it’s even more fun when a customer comments positively on our work we did for them….much more fun!

Karen

Thank you for freeing me! No more wasted time!

stephen q shannon

You are your logo vs. the caveat you posit. Real estate folks set the standard on this concept years and years ago. No mug shot, no recognition with or with out the firm they consult and pay money to for office space and support. My “broker” has been with three brokerage firms in two years. Their logos do not remind me of him, how he pays attention to me and “ships” are is logos. Good or good?

Michael Port

Good and good Stephen!

Ali

I’m all for simplicity, elegance and understanding what/who is the brand.

Three years ago, I went from a very fancy logo for Vision For Success, gorgeous eagle in flight, in gold and hunter green, flying from east to west, and finally I realized people are not buying the eagle, they are buying me, and I am the product. So unless you are a huge corporation as Catherine Morgan mentioned above, and even at that, keep it simple, I say a professional and uptodate picture of yourself, is more than enough, the rest, keep it simple, and go market, sell, get clients, have fun, and be rich! ♥ End of my two cents.

Tina Lo Sasso

Michael – you are so right! All my business comes to me from referrals or authors I’ve known for years. People see what I do for their colleagues and naturally want me to help them. I do have (what I think is a great logo!) that I got through a trade. Frankly, I think we’re the only ones who even notice it!

Steve

I’m releived actualy, my pigeon in flight logo doesn’t really matter, either way…
🙂
Steve

Scott

I think Michael raises an interesting point in making the distinction between providers of services and providers of goods. Customer experience is paramount to the success of both.

As a graphic designer, those in my industry rely on our client base believing that a professionally designed logo is critical to business success. Well, one look at some of the logos being used by very successful businesses can put the lie to that idea.

If you design it, they will not (necessarily) come. Regardless of how well designed a company’s logo is (or website, for that matter), if the client or customer’s experience falls flat, no amount of design will help.

Michael Port

Excellent points Scott.

Alexis Neely

Yep, this is so right on Michael. The other place I see a lot of unnecessary focus (and where I see people actually POSTPONING getting started in their business) is on business cards.

People, please do not wait until you get your business card to start your business. We need your Great Work now! 🙂

Lynn Alpert

I have to disagree with you, Michael. I agree that you should focus on running your business, but I’m afraid your article may suggest to some that any old logo will be ok. Not so!

People are visual beings and we judge things by how they look. If you are selling high-class lawyer services and you have a logo “designed” by your neighbors cousin’s kid in art school and he gives you a bright pink logo using Comic Sans font, then you are actually hurting your business. A well-designed logo represents YOU and your business and if it’s slapped together by anyone other than a professional designer, than it will scream “not a trusted professional” and chase away your prospects.

It’s better to not have a logo at all than to have one that isn’t well-thought out and designed by a professional. Give yourself the best chance to be successful as possible!

Case in point: I’ve always thought of Michael Port as the consummate professional, but the “sticky note” in the upper right corner of your website really makes me sad. It looks very childish and not appropriate for your audience and may make some question your credibility. I know enough about you as to not let it change my opinion of you too much, but a newcomer to your site may react differently.

Michael Port

I didn’t say, “Any old logo will do.” I said, “It should be good enough.” I agree with you that design/branding are of the utmost importance. Of course, what works for one, doesn’t always work for another, and that’s the beauty of this big ‘ol crazy world we live in. Regarding attorneys: As an example, I love my IP attorney. I’ve never been to his website and have no idea what his logo looks like or if he even has one. I trust him and his work is outstanding. For someone like an attorney a good enough logo is just fine by my standards.

And, I’m terribly sorry you don’t like my yellow post it note and that you think it’s childish (I like childish things as they keep me young). It does have a 50% plus conversion rate. Online design is as much about direct response as it is about look and feel. Ideally, we do our best to find the most effective balance (by measuring actual response to various designs). But, at the end of the day, it’s just a post-it note and it’s just a logo (reminder: I’m still only talking about small service business owners, not the Apple’s or Google’s of the world).

Beverly

Michael,

You just hit the nail on the head. How “creative” is Google’s logo (Google written with different color letters). How “creative” is a bitten apple for Apple. Marriott hotels has a large M that could be any font. People are visual, but the product or service is more important than a logo!

Of course, we may question a duck for an insurance company, but doesn’t it work?

Michael Port

Yes, it’s the brand identity that stands behind (or really in front of) the “logo” that’s key. It’s what an individual or a company stands that makes them attractive.

Lynn Alpert

What you provide as a service professional is ultimately what will make you successful, I agree. I was coming at it from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know how good your services are yet. Someone who finds your website, for example. You don’t want to scare away any good prospects with an unprofessional-looking site. The only problem I have with your statement of having a logo that is “good enough”, is that’s up to interpretation. And as American Idol proves, some people can’t distinguish between “good enough” and absolutely horrible (as Simon would say)!

Didn’t mean to offend you about your post-it note icon, but the mere fact of its placement and prominence (which is part of good design) is probably the reason for your conversion rate. It wouldn’t matter what it looks like if that’s all your after. But why not design it so fits into your brand image, so it can still have a great conversion rate, as well as reinforce your professional brand?

I just think it’s important to think about everything when you’re building a brand. It’s only a logo, it’s only a post-it note, it’s only a website, etc. – it’s only your business.

Tina Forsyth

I’ve never had a logo in 12+ years of business… actually wait, I did have a logo for my very first coaching biz (over 10 years ago) and I barely made a dime from that biz, LOL. But it sure was cute!

Beverly

My point, Tina! 🙂

Maria

I have a small Translation Agency (with logo and all) through which I work with clients within the country when most of the time some outsourcing is required while I use my own name (not the agency’s) when I deal with my clients from abroad, as a freelancer, I think they feel more comfortable given the distance involved because they know they refer to one person, not a company.

April

Michael – agree with the logo – having same debate on name of company. What are your thoughts? Use your personal name/brand or create a company name, or does it matter?

Michael Port

That’s an excellent question and a good topic for another post. In the meantime, I’ll say this…

It depends (don’t you hate that answer 🙂 but naming something can be an innovation in and of itself. Your personal name will get known (i.e Michael Port) and if you brand your products and services well (i.e. Book Yourself Solid, The Think Big Revolution, etc.) you’ll get known for that work.

Heiner Schäfer

This brings up the logo question: As long as I sold my design services as Heiner Schäfer I didn’t need a logo. However since I have partnered with Ute we sail under the flag design on location and this requires a logo. When your service can only be done by you in the way that you do it a fancy business name is useless as people will always call you by your name. If you want to eventually sell your business it should have a name separate from you and a logo. And there are business examples out there that prove the opposite.

Shawn Wright

I agree that your logo doesn’t matter, except when it does. If a logo was the singular element that brings in clients then as a designer, I would be a very rich man. Too often I have been solicited by professionals and handed basic, simple, boring business cards that look just like their competitors. If you didn’t do a good enough job distinguishing yourself from your competitor then your logo may be the one thing that puts you over the top.

Really you should focus on the whole package, not just a logo. Your business card should work with your letterhead which should work with your website and on and on. Fonts, colors, simple design and logos play an important role and how you are perceived when you are not interacting face to face. Taking care of that part of your business tells me that you take care of all parts of your business.

Michael Port

I’m with you Shawn!

Cathy Davis

Good Design is Good Business. A professional design makes a small business stand out from the crowd and offers a memorable, recognizable impression. But a good design, no matter how simple or elaborate, does NO GOOD if it does not express the essence of the company it represents. Whether you choose to use a logo, or simply choose to identify your self/business with a clean, uncluttered style — perhaps branding yourself with your photo — make sure it is consistent and “speaks” for your company. Good design makes us all feel good — both when we use it, and when we buy from a company using it.

Michael Port

Very well said Cathy!

Lynn Alpert

Well-put, Cathy!

Craig Berry

Well said MP! It’s an excellent reminder for all of us. Especially the perfectionists (not that I would know anything about that) who can spend hours, days, weeks and even months obsessing over just one aspect of our marketing efforts. Whether it’s a logo, a flyer, a website, business cards or whatever, time is money. There is always a need for balance. If anything for me, I need constant reminders that the balance should be weighted towards face to face meetings or phone calls as opposed to making sure that extra squiggly thing is on one of my marketing pieces.

Beverly

Agree, Craig.

Chip D Thompson

I totally agree Michael!

I have seen so much time and money wasted in the “getting started” phase of company and yet they forget that the customers must bring the money to pay for it.

One thing that is changing is social media. When you have a company page it must be consistent across the board. So many will not keep one picture or logo on each site.

You on the other hand do this well. Your picture is everywhere I look, good work.

The main area where I think you need a logo is when your company is or will be a success without you there on a daily bases.

All the best!
Chip

Michael Port

I agree. Making that transition from individual identity to company identity can be challenging. I focus on brand identity and name recognition (i.e Book Yourself Solid) so that it can stand without me.

Beverly

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”
– Henry C. Link

Kelli Grant

As a Realtor, my logo which includes my name has been one of the best things I did when I first got into the business 7 yrs ago. People see my Kelli Grant logo w/a house and sun on real estate signs, ads, business cards, etc.. and often when I meet people, they think they’ve met me before when I introduce myself. People feel comfortable doing business with someone they “think” they know. 🙂

Michael Port

Wonderful. Your name is in public eye and it stays with them. That’s great.

Nancy Griffin

Hi Michael!

I am a graphic designer, so I just HAD to reply to this one.

…and I have to say that I agree with you about the logo being more non-essential for service providers than for those who provide hands-on products. However, ALL need a recognizable BRAND for themselves. One that is consistent throughout their product lines.

Logos are necessary when you will be selling something that people will be using, wearing, driving, listening to, etc. That product may be relatively small and a well thought out logo can be scaled down to fit the tag in the collar of a shirt very nicely, then when it’s time to buy a new shirt the owner can recall what brand it is. That same logo can be scaled up to fit a bulletin board or resampled to fit a website. And there’s the “free” advertising a product gets when all your friends see you driving a “Brand-X” car.

It is still crucial to use good design principles when crafting a brand for a business, though! Not all colors work together, not all type is readable and not all photography should become public; much less represent a reputable business.

It’s also very important, when designing a brand, to think down the road and identify where this brand is going to appear. Of course it will be on your website, print ads and business cards. But where else? Signs, promotional items (pens, cups, totes…), letterhead, presentation folders, order forms…books?? That brand needs to look good on ALL of those items to remain consistent and that is not always possible when going from large to small; color to black and white; print to internet.

If you plan to go for the long haul with your business, it pays (in time and money and saves headaches that you don’t need while trying to do YOUR JOB) to hire a graphic designer to help establish your brand, whether there is a logo involved or not.

My two-cents!

Nancy

PS – Keep up the good work!

Michael Port

I’m with you completely Nancy. Well said!

Luis Javier López Arredondo

Thank you. Just what I thought.

Althought I do have a logo, it just came up to me. It is a capital I = one in roman number + ‘me’, ideal the ideas in my site.

I think it is not crutial, but can help.

Michael

Great post Michael. As a fellow coach and consultant, I run into this a lot when I work with people in this industry. And years ago, I was one of these people. I actually purchased a franchise so that I would be associated with a brand and thought that would get me clients. Long story short, no one even remembered my franchise brand. They all knew me. So now I promote my own “Michael” brand without a logo and without a business card. I make a 6 figure income working the way I do and I don’t have all the hassle of “the brand”. Yes we have our own brand in terms of style and look/feel of things, but it isn’t what consumes us. We are consumed by helping and serving our clients.

I will also take this one additional step. I have people in this industry ask me about what to put on their cards. I ask, “why do you need a business card?” Just because others need one doesn’t cut it for me. I like your concept of that velvet rope and I think a business card just says, “hey, if you’ve got money, I’ve got time”. So when I’m out and someone asks for a card my response is, “I’ve found that cards just don’t work in my industry so I don’t use them. If you are truly serious about connecting with me, give me YOUR card and I promise you right here and now that I’ll reach out to you within 24 hours and schedule a time for us to get together”. It’s a great pattern interrupt that they never see coming.

Michael Port

Dude! I do the same thing. I haven’t carried a business card in years!

Michael Port

Carol Roth just sent me a post she wrote on the same topic. I guess there’s something in the air. Have a look: http://www.carolroth.com/blog/is-branding-useless-for-service-providers/

Derek ODwyer

Hi Michael, have to agree with you. In professional services, you buy the person first and too many people do not spend enough time in the sales zone. Not only do they waste time on logos and branding, they waste it on getting the office ready, sorting out files etc. Sell yourself first – someone else can get the office ready while your out generating revenue for your business

Alastair McDermott

I do love to see a small service business with a wonderfully professional logo that portrays a great image. It’s like wearing a tailored suit, or having a 350gsm silk board business card instead of something printed on an airport vending machine. It’s not strictly necessary, and you might get better ROI by investing your time or money elsewhere (like taking the time to reply to blog comments – noted, Michael).

In our website development business we do provide logo design – actually we created a spin off brand, “LogoBurner” for it. We cater to start-ups so lot of our clientèle don’t have a logo when they get to us, and our head designer happens to be *awesome* at logos, which is about more than just graphic design. I see being able to offer high quality logos as a bonus to my business, and I see our clients walk away with a super logo that will serve them for years to come as a bonus to theirs. But not always necessary.

If you do hire a good logo designer, don’t do the “close your eyes and point at the page” thing. Take some time to look at them all. Ask the designer their personal favourite (and why). Only when all else is even, pick one at random, and then get on with running your business.

Terri Belford

Yes-agree 100%. I’ve heard way too many aspiring entrepreneurs drag their feet over their logo or website design when what they should do is get a “shitty first draft” up and start blogging. As long as it’s simple and not offensive if what they have to say is valuable, they will have fans and followers. Even if you are in a business that you are eventually going to franchise, you can always add a great logo later. IF you stall, you won’t have any business to franchise. Just get started, make a name for yourself, make money. Then deal with those details.

Colette Cormier

Such an intriguing topic
I had my business running successfully for 7 years before I even decided on a logo. Designed it myself and I love it but never gave it a second thought when i finally created one. I always forget to put it on things. It really depends on your type of business. As a makeup artist, I have clients way more interested in streaking straight to the photos of my work than spending time staring at my logo. I think an effectively written tag line is more of a telling message than a logo.

Steve Martin

I’ve been wondering about a logo for my gas station for a long time. I guess this post puts into perspective! Thanks.

Hattie Obleton

Great choice in topic and have to mention this is absolute interesting and adore the expression in general.

Carolyn Sampson

I actually agree with you Michael, although I did design a logo for my new business. I’m a marketing consultant with some print design experience so it’s within my skillset but I’m only semi-happy with it and tried to decide whether to hire a professional logo designer. Any way, today I completed my listing on Manta.com (business owners should do that if they haven’t already) and it said a logo might help your listing get more attention. You can use a photo instead so maybe a photo of the entrepreur would be just fine. Just a thought.

Leslie Ann

As a graphics designer, my specialty is in Business Card Makeovers. I’m in agreement Michael, that logos aren’t always important. While some businesses need branding, I decided to forgo a specific brand for my business. Instead, I use 5 different cards. That’s right. All five cards are different. Depending on the recipient I’ll present the business card that they will respond to positively. Instead of using one card design, and hoping it appeals to everyone, I decided to create sample business cards, so I can tune into prospective clients with the right card. One card reveals that I can design like I’m a 19 year old a party animal, another is an example of clever, colorful and classy. Techs love my transparent card with a QR code. Then there’s the card perfect for the lovers of everything organic. Women over 40 ooo and ahhh over my personal calling card with the photo of a beautifully simple woman from 1912 in sepia tones. She happens to be my grandmother. Sometimes I offer several of the cards to a prospective client. That offers people a good feel for my ability to design in many styles. It works well for me.

Mihai

I have been confronted with the same problem, dealing too much with the logo design.
When i dropped the idea of having some fancy and unique, and just went for it, i had a nice logo in the end, which (above all) had a meaning for people.

Thanks for confirming this! 🙂

Danny

Quite an interesting topic, Michael.

I have noticed how with website designs, some sites have done a great job of making sure their logo matches their branding, and they don’t overdo it as far as the logo design is concerned…

Other sites have logo and header designs that seem to be a little over the top, and are often the “stand out part of the site….as the content is quite poor in quality….

The one constant rule I hear regarding logo’s, is that they should be simple, yet well designed…and some of the most famous companies have the most simplistic logo designs, yet everyone knows who is behind it…

Jordan Whelan

Michael, this is great advice. I have been advocating for this sort of shift for a while.

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